Mark Rylance (pictured) today announced his resignation as artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe. He will step down, at the end of December 2005, after ten years in the job, during which time he has overseen the launch of the South Bank replica of the Elizabethan playhouse and its rise to become one of London’s most recognised landmarks.

In a personal letter to colleagues and friends, Rylance wrote: “Never has an actor had such an opportunity as you entrusted to me when I was asked to help bring your dream of a working Globe Theatre through its birth into its childhood.”

An award-winning actor, Rylance’s many credits include Much Ado About Nothing, Life x 3 and True West in the West End, and Intimacy on film. Appointed as artistic director of the Globe in August 1995, he has continued to perform regularly at the South Bank landmark. Since taking the title role in the Globe’s opening season’s production of Henry V in 1997, his credits there have included Antony and Cleopatra, Twelfth Night, Richard II and, this season, Measure for Measure.

The dream of American actor and director Sam Wanamaker, who spearheaded the fundraising efforts but died before construction began in 1993, the modern Shakespeare’s Globe is modelled on the original theatre (built nearby in 1599 and burned down in 1613), where the playwright and his company premiered many of his plays.

Now a major international destination for tourists and theatregoers alike, the open-air venue’s annual season runs from May to September, with this year’s “Star-Crossed Lovers” repertory concluding on 26 September 2004 (See News, 27 Apr 2004). Also part of the complex is the Inigo Jones Theatre, an incomplete reconstruction of an early 17th-century playhouse based on designs by England's first Renaissance architect. Fundraising to finish work on that theatre and make it available for year-round performances is ongoing.

In Rylance’s letter to colleagues, he said: “The completion of the indoor Inigo Jones Theatre is again in our dreams and I hope that it may help to attract a fantastic artistic director. I intend to do everything I can to help make the transition to a new artistic director transparent and exciting for the Globe. I will endeavour to always be at the Globe's service."

Commenting on Rylance’s resignation, Sir Michael Perry, chairman of the Shakespeare Globe Trust, said: "Mark has made an enormous contribution to the Globe and has thoughtfully given us time to find a suitable successor. We hope that Mark will consider returning to the Globe stage as an actor and supporting us as we plan our future development."

Peter Kyle, general director, added: "It has been a privilege and a personal pleasure to work with Mark, who has played a major role as artistic director of the Globe and in achieving the great success we have enjoyed."

Rylance’s successor will be announced sometime next year.

- by Terri Paddock